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Best Vitamin C serums - and why you should be applying one at this time of year

Everything you need to know about Vitamin C

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Leanne Bayley
Director of Lifestyle & Commerce
June 10, 2024
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Vitamin C is one of the best ways to improve the appearance of your skin and while you can use it all year round, the warmer months are a great time to add a Vitamin C serum into your skincare routine. 

This really is a great all year-round product, but in the summer we can develop more dark spots under strong summer sunlight, and Vitamin C can help prevent/improve hyperpigmentation, assist collagen production and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Doesn't that sound fantastic? Keep reading for expert tips and see our top picks... 

Meet the expert

Dr Jason Thomson, Skin + Me Head of Medical: Dr Jason is an award-winning Dermatologist with degrees from Cambridge and King’s College London. He specialises in acne, rosacea, skin cancer, and skincare science and has developed award-winning, gold-standard prescription formulations and cosmetic routine products for Skin + Me.

What are the advantages of using a Vitamin C serum?

Jason tells us: "Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a vital nutrient essential for many normal cellular functions, including the growth, development, and repair of body tissues, not least the skin. It is a potent antioxidant that helps neutralise free radicals, which can damage cells and accelerate ageing.

"Vitamin C applied topically offers numerous benefits for the skin. Being a potent antioxidant means it helps protect the skin from oxidative damage caused by free radicals and UV exposure. Additionally, Vitamin C promotes collagen production, which can help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, making the skin look firmer and more youthful. It also has brightening properties, helping to fade hyperpigmentation and even out skin tone. Overall I think vitamin C is a great multi-tasker ingredient and regular use can result in a healthier, more radiant complexion."

Best Vitamin C products - at a glance

How to use a Vitamin C Serum?

"First off you need to find a good Vitamin C product. There are a lot available on the market and they are not all created equally. Scientific studies have shown L-ascrobic acid ranging from 10-20% is the most effective so I generally recommend looking for products with at least 10% vitamin C. If you are new to vitamin C or have sensitive skin then you will definitely want to start with 10% or look for products with encapsulated vitamin C which release the ascorbic acid more slowly to improve tolerability. I developed the Skin + Me Brighten + Boost vitamin C to include an encapsulated ascorbic acid for this reason. Stability of your vitamin C serum is also essential. Ascorbic acid is very unstable and will quickly oxidise when exposed to sunlight and air. If your serum turns brown that usually means it has oxidised and will probably not be very effective if all the active ascorbic acid has been lost. This is another benefit of encapsulating the ascorbic acid."

He added: "To use your Vitamin C serum effectively, apply it to freshly cleansed, dry skin. Typically, a few drops are enough to cover the entire face. Gently massage the serum into your skin using upward strokes. Once absorbed you can follow up with a moisturiser. If you have dry skin, skip this step and go straight for your sunscreen as the last step in your morning routine."

How we chose the best Vitamin C serums

  • Trusted brands: In this edit, you’ll find the tried and tested Vitamin C serums the HELLO! Shopping experts love - we wouldn’t recommend something unless we are fans of the brand. 
  • Price: You’ll find Vitamin C serums for all budgets in this roundup. 
  • Trending: A lot of these Vitamin C serums have been trending on social media.

Best Vitamin C Serums

1/7

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum

L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Clinical 12% Pure Vitamin C Serum© L'Oréal

  • Suitable for: Suitable for all skin types and skin tones
  • Percentage: 12%

A 12% vitamin C serum that helps to visibly brighten, smooth and unify the skin.

After five years of research and testing, the formula was perfected to provide a high-concentration, ultra-stable form of the vitamin. Fortified with salicylic acid and vitamin E for optimal efficacy, the antioxidant-rich serum provides hydrating, protective and skin-smoothing benefits, alongside promoting a resurfacing effect.  

2/7

Skin + Me Brighten + Boost Regulating Vitamin C Serum

Skin + Me Brighten + Boost Regulating Vitamin C Serum© Skin + Me

  • Suitable for: Suitable for all skin types and skin tones
  • Percentage: 15%

Skin + Me's unique 15% vitamin C Complex - the Brighten + Boost Regulating Serum - helps to even out unwanted dark spots and pigmentation, while peptides illuminate your skin from within. This is ideal for anyone looking for an enhancing step to revitalise their skin.

3/7

Garnier Vitamin C Anti-Dark Spots & Brightening Serum

Garnier Vitamin C Anti-Dark Spots & Brightening Serum© Garnier

  • Suitable for: Suitable for teenage skin
  • How to use: Apply one full dropper to clean face and gently massage into skin. 
  • Percentage: 3.5%

Garnier's Vitamin C Anti-Dark Spot Serum is enriched with a potent mix of 3.5% Vitamin C*, Niacinamide & Salicylic Acid,  to visibly reduce the appearance of dark spots and enhance glow. The formula has been carefully blended to provide dark-spot action. 

4/7

La Roche Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum

La Roche Posay Pure Vitamin C10 Serum© La Roche Posay

  • Suitable for: Suitable for all skin types and skin tones
  • Percentage: 10%

Pure Vitamin C 10 prevents and helps correct the appearance of ageing, even for sensitive skin. Fans say that skin instantly feels softer, more hydrated, and glowing. It has been tested on sensitive skin and thanks to the thermal spa water, there's an exceptional mineral diversity to help restore skin’s barrier, soothe sensitivity and fend off pro-aging free radical attacks.

5/7

Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum

Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum© Murad

  • Suitable for: Suitable for all skin types and skin tones
  • Percentage: Murad doesn’t market its products with percentages

If you suffer with dark spots, the Murad Vita-C Glycolic Brightening Serum could be the one for you - it's designed to minimise the appearance of dark spots for radiant, healthy-looking skin.

Powered by gold-stabilised vitamin C, the formula features a one-of-a-kind Vita-C complex to enhance the stability and potency of L-ascorbic acid. Glycolic acid helps to exfoliate dead surface cells, revealing a smooth, glowing complexion.

6/7

Skinceuticals Silymarin CF Antioxidant Vitamin-C Serum

Skinceuticals Silymarin CF Antioxidant Vitamin-C Serum© Skinceuticals

  • Suitable for: Suitable for oily, blemish-prone skin
  • Percentage: 15%

Skinceuticals is a favourite with skincare buffs and the Silymarin CF antioxidant vitamin-c serum for daytime use is enriched with 15% pure vitamin C, 0.5% Ferulic Acid, 0.5% Salicylic Acid and 0.5% Silymarin to help reinforce skin’s natural protection from free radical damage and prevent oil oxidation which can lead to blemishes. This is also especially good if you have acne-prone skin. 

7/7

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%

The Ordinary Vitamin C Ascorbyl Glucoside Solution 12%© The Ordinary

  • Suitable for: Suitable for all skin types and skin tones
  • Percentage: 23% L-Ascorbic Acid. The Ordinary product contains an oil-soluble derivative of Vitamin C that can be used in higher concentrations without drawbacks. It is one of the most stable derivatives of Vitamin C but, being a derivative, its potency will not be directly comparable to pure L-Ascorbic Acid

The Ordinary's easy-to-use serum contains a water-soluble vitamin C derivative that converts into vitamin C once applied, giving it less irritation potential. And because it has advanced antioxidant properties, it also protects skin from the visual effects of damage caused by environmental stressors, helping to maintain a more radiant complexion.

When should you use Vitamin C serum? Day or night? 

"Vitamin C can be used morning and night but I recommend using Vitamin C as part of your morning skincare routine. This ensures you get all the antioxidant benefits to protect your skin from the stresses that daily life will throw at it (pollution, UV exposure). It's best to apply your serum onto freshly cleaned skin."

How often should you use Vitamin C serum?

"You can use it up to twice a day but I would recommend just once a day in the morning and reserving your nighttime routine for other actives like retinoids or exfoliating acids (AHA/BHA). This way you maximise the benefits of different actives over both your morning and evening skincare routines."

What age should you start using Vitamin C?

"I recommend starting to use vitamin C in your skincare routine as soon as you first start to notice the earliest signs of skin-ageing: fine lines around the eyes, uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation. Usually this will be from your mid 20s to early 30s (depending on how good you have been at sun protection)."

Do you have to spend a lot of money on Vitamin C ?

"While there are many high-end Vitamin C serums on the market, you don't necessarily have to spend a lot to get good results. The efficacy of a Vitamin C serum largely depends on its formulation, concentration, and stability of the Vitamin C used. Look for products with a concentration of 10-20% L-ascorbic acid and check for stabilising ingredients like ferulic acid and Vitamin E. Products with encapsulated Vitamin C will tend to be more stable than pure ascorbic acid. Many affordable options meet these criteria and can provide excellent benefits without breaking the bank."

Before and After: how will you spot the difference?

"Those with dullness, uneven skin tone, fine lines and hyperpigmentation will see the biggest difference with regular use of a good Vitamin C serum. After consistent use, usually within four to six weeks, they should see a significant improvement in skin brightness and clarity. The skin often appears more even-toned and radiant, with reduced appearance of fine lines and hyperpigmentation. The overall texture of the skin may also become smoother."

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